Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ten Personal Signals of Spring

As a child, my father helped my sister and me to build snow forts on our farm's side yard. Then, the snow came in November and remained until March/April. When the sun and its spring temperatures hit, our snow forts were doomed to disappear.

My mother had extensive gardens. I knew Spring must be imminent when she examined her dahlia bulbs wintering-over in the cellar.

We knew it was Spring when the snow melted and anything that had been lost or discarded (hidden under the snowy blanket) was revealed...even large brown masses of 'dog poop'.

The calendar indicates that Spring arrives on March 21; however, it was “Spring Break” in High School that reminded us that Summer was not far behind.

I knew it was Spring when 'snow drops' peeked through the soft snow; then the red and yellow tulips in all their glory sprang up, followed by our 'host of golden daffodils'.

When school ended yearly in June, I knew it was time to be my father's 'hired farm help'...without pay. In Spring we had prepared the fields for planting. Summer brought fresh pure scents of unpolluted air and the clearly heard train whistles as they chugged along the rails like a 'caravan of moving metal'.

I knew it was Spring when College days ended...and I was off afar to earn my fees for the ensuing semesters. They were jobs that paid me it 'Hostess at a Muskoka resort'...working in British Columbia's rural mountain towns...even assisting my father at his now gas station business.

Spring arrived for me when we could walk woodland trails and be enthralled with Ontario's provincial flower...the white 'trillium' (occasionally pink). Never to pick or transplant from its habitat.

April showers bring forth May flowers”...a true Spring omen. Yet, according to 'Hagar the Horrible' cartoon, he tells 'Lucky Eddie': I love a good Spring soaking! The rain brings everything to life! I feel like dancing too! And Eddie grumblingly states...I am NOT dancing! I'm trying not to step on the worms the rain has brought up!

Spring is what I felt in my youth: Summer would be a dip in Whiteman's Creek. Autumn, the raking of leaves and harvesting fruits and vegetables...the cutting of grain and corn. It was also the beginning of the school year, whether student or teaching. Winter meant skating on the frozen farm pond or skiing mountain slopes.
Spring...can always be renewed...starting a new cycle...
every day, every year, every month. It can be never-ending!

The beautiful Spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness,
the human soul is apt to revive also. (Harriet Ann Jacobs)

Emerging Surprises of Spring
Paul Benedetti says it best in a published Spectator issue.

Call me cautious, but I just decided this week to get my snow tires off. Until recently, I was still wearing long underwear. I have to admit this made for some pretty warm committee meetings, but you never know when you're going to get a late-spring cold snap and I like to be prepared. As anyone in Canada knows, a couple of warm weekends is like a couple good dates. Neither means you won't get dumped ~ or dumped on.

But I have to admit there are some signs that tell me spring is truly here..Yes, yes, there's the red robin hopping across your lawn looking for worms. I can tell it's spring because the snow, melted by the ever-warming sun, has revealed about a million cigarette butts on my front lawn...courtesy of my son and all of his assorted pals who smoke. These little devils are impervious to the rake and demand closer attention. Oh, what a lovely spring tradition it has now become for me to don my work jeans and boots and then, on my hands and knees, hand-pick a mere 20 or 40 dozen butts out of the lawn. I then plant them in the back garden and by the fall, I'll have 10 or 20 beautiful cigarette bushes blooming to beat the band. They yield a good pack and a half each. Isn't nature wonderful?

I can tell it's spring when I walk out onto the porch on a Saturday morning to fetch the paper in my underwear (I'm in my underwear, not the paper) and I take a deep breath of the early spring morning air. What I actually get is a pungent and unmistakably unpleasant nosefull of what the French delightfully call 'Eau de Merde de Chien' (That's Dog Poo for those of us who dropped French like a hot frying pan in high school) that is gently carried on a light wind throughout the neighbourhood. The aroma is the product of thousands of winter dog deposits that owners were too tired ...too cold...or too lazy to bag in the sub-zero temperatures. You can hide a lot of stuff under a blanket of snow...but eventually the sins of winter are the surprises of spring.

I can tell spring has arrived when I take a look at my car in the bright light and realize that I haven't washed it in about four months. Between the three pounds of caked-on road salt and months of accumulated dirt and debris, the interior looks pretty bad. And you should see the outside. I must wash it. The first day of summer sounds like a good time for that.

I know Spring has come when I can once again hear the gentle tweets and twitters and musical calls of the birds, clearly happy it's no longer minus 30 out. Of course, that chirping gently wakes me at about 3:45 a.m. and continues incessantly until I rage out onto the porch in my underwear banging pots together and yelling hysterically. Judging by the look I get from passing joggers, you'd think they've never seen a dishevelled man armed with kitchen utensils. People need to get out more!

I can tell it's spring when my neighbours, like the green leaves of my tulips, start poking their heads out and, one after another, emerge, smiling and greeting each other on the front lawns and sidewalks.

When the kids ~ and thankfully we have a lot of them around us ~ gather to play road hockey, their shouts of 'He scores!' or 'Carrrrrrrr!' ringing out along the roadway. Or to shoot hoops into a net they rolled onto the street or laughing their heads off in the fresh air without their iPods or smart phones or head phones.
Just the bright, warm sunshine of spring.

(Paul Benedetti lives in Hamilton. He teaches journalism at Western University.)

Merle Baird-Kerr...written April 27, 2015

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